A Democratic, Outward-looking Scotland
- Scottish Independence Referendum Bill published
- Building a New Scotland prospectus papers launched
- Opened a new Scottish Government hub in Copenhagen
The Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party believe that independence within the EU would provide the best conditions for Scotland, the people who live here, and future generations, to thrive. Ministers have committed to give the people of Scotland a choice in a referendum in this parliamentary term. It is Ministers' shared belief that this has never been more necessary as the world has changed dramatically since the last Independence Referendum with the exit of the UK from the EU, the Covid-19 pandemic, and most recently, the conflict in Ukraine and the growing cost of living crisis.
The Scottish Government published a Scottish Independence Referendum Bill on 28 June 2022, alongside the route map to a referendum, and announced a proposed referendum date of 19 October 2023. The Lord Advocate referred to the Supreme Court the devolution issue of whether a Bill for a referendum on Scottish Independence would relate to reserved matters. To help the people of Scotland make an informed decision and make the case for a referendum, a series of papers titled ‘Building a New Scotland’ will form a prospectus for an independent Scotland. The first paper, ‘Independence in the Modern World. Wealthier, Happier, Fairer Why Not Scotland?’, which was published in June, set out detailed analysis of the UK’s performance across a range of economic and social indicators relative to that of ten European countries. The second of these papers was published in July 2022, ‘Renewing Democracy Through Independence’, setting out the Scottish Government’s view that people who live in Scotland have the right to choose how they should be governed and to decide if Scotland should become an independent country.
Given the UK's withdrawal from the European Union, the importance and value of strengthening Scotland's international relationships, presence and voice has never been clearer. To help develop these relationships the Government committed to establishing Scottish Government offices in Copenhagen and Warsaw to promote Scotland's interests and reputation in the Nordic and Central European regions. The Copenhagen Office became operational on 17 May 2022 and work is underway to establish an office in Warsaw within this parliamentary term.
The Scottish Government believes that the Scottish people should have a voice in the decisions that affect their lives. Turnout for the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections was higher than ever, and Ministers have committed to promote legislation on electoral reform that enables more people to stand as candidates at Scottish Parliament and local government elections, and to improve the accessibility of elections, with a particular focus on people with sight loss, to ensure as many people can vote as possible. To achieve this the Scottish Government is looking at ways to build on work supporting citizens assemblies to increase citizen participation. Furthermore, a Scottish Government consultation on electoral reform will launch later this year to gather the views from the people of Scotland on how electoral reform can best be achieved in Scotland. Ministers recognise that creating a range of meaningful and inclusive opportunities for the people of Scotland to have their say on what matters to them is a vital part of a healthy democracy.
The Bute House Agreement recognised the need to prevent further damage to the devolution settlement from attempts to undermine and constrain its powers, for example action being taken in devolved areas by the UK Government through the Internal Market Act or the "levelling up" agenda. Together Ministers have sought to protect the devolution settlement. For example, the new regulations passed by the Scottish Parliament banning the use of single use plastics were at risk of being undermined by the UK Government's Internal Market Act, which would have allowed plastic materials made elsewhere in the UK and imported into Scotland to be legally sold. Ministers from both sides of the Agreement were active in securing the necessary changes to allow the regulations to operate as intended.
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